Behind-the-scenes of The Interview

Our recent short The Interview was an unusual project, in that it was originally created for an 85-second competition, over the course of a long weekend. Subsequently we went back and re-edited the film into a longer format, resulting in two very different versions of the same film. We’ve covered pre-production and production on the blog already and now it’s time to take a look at post-production in a bit more detail.

The edits

First up, we have the two edits of the film. Let’s take a look at them in case you haven’t watched them yet.

Here’s the original 85-second cut:

And here’s the 140-second cut:

Other than the evident difference in length, there are some key changes in the extended cut. Rather than expanding upon the original edit, I went back to the drawing board and edited on a clean timeline, building it up from scratch. A few things to note about the extended cut:

  • No side angles or dolly shots are used. It remains exclusively with the straight-on shots, cutting from the wide to the close-up (with a couple of extra close-up inserts of key details). Holding on the straight-on shots maintains a tension throughout; an uncomfortable focus on the lead character, making him the centre of attention, just like the feeling of being in an interview. Cutting to side shots added nothing to the story.
  • Awkward pauses between lines have been stretched out artificially in a few places by using additional footage on the end of takes. One fun example of this is right at the start, in the mid shot, just after Tom adjusts his tie: that wasn’t even a proper take. It was just a camera test which was recorded, with Tom waiting for the director to call action. Looking through the footage, it jumped out as a nice blank opening shot.
  • The IAT ident is reinstated at the start. Didn’t seem right without it. Note how the cuttlefish enters shot from the top of a 16:9 frame, but the steamwhale enters a wider aspect ratio which is then used for the rest of the film. A minor detail but I thought it was quite fun to have the cuttlefish bust out of the boundaries of the letterboxed frame.


The original cut had a single VFX shot, right at the end, with subtle ‘devil horns’ visible on Tom’s shadow as he says the line “see you in hell!” This shot was removed from the extended cut and replaced with some more elaborate ideas.

The location featured two conveniently placed doors, leading through to a couple of generic offices. In the 85-second cut these offices are dark and nondescript. Here’s a frame from the original footage:

original wide

And here’s the same shot in the extended cut:

enhanced wide

The ‘Heaven’ door was given a soft blue glow and the ‘Hell’ door a soft red glow. It’s hopefully subtle enough that to new viewers it’s not immediately evident, but it does serve to highlight that there’s a choice at work in the story.

The main VFX shot arrives at the end with the ‘demon face’ glitches. I wanted this to be a relatively naturalistic demon, rather than the over-the-top horror movie style face distortion often seen online. The film was never shot with this in mind but the key shot at the end of the film is locked off and features limited movement from Tom, making it possible to track on some digital prosthetics.

My original plan was to have the demon face flash up for just a couple of frames, so I took this frame:


And then brought it into GIMP and hand-painted some demon prosthetics. This I then exported out as its own layer for compositing inside HitFilm 2 Ultimate:


You can see in the image above that the original plan was to augment Tom’s beard into something a bit more pointy and devilish, but I decided against that for the final shot, focusing instead on the eyebrow removal and ears.

Next up was tracking the movement of Tom’s face. For this I used HitFilm’s built-in 2D tracker, which worked just fine. A more complicated head move would require a more sophisticated track, perhaps shifting over to using mocha’s tracking abilities as used on the TV show GRIMM. Anyway, here’s all the tracked data I ended up with:


I then duplicated the prosthetic layer into multiple pieces for each ear and the eyebrows and tracked them onto the relevant sections. It only required a little bit of fine tuning to get the effect working. You can see a raw version of the effect in action over the duration of the entire shot here:

There are, of course, errors in the shot, primarily with the eyebrows drifting a couple of times, and of course all the prosthetics go flying off in a comedy fashion at the end. In this particular case it didn’t matter, however, as I already knew that I was going to use the shot sparingly, appearing very briefly in a jittery, glitchy manner.

The glitching appearances were really easy to handle. I’d edited the film in Premiere Pro CC and was using HitFilm Plugins to grade the film. Each glitch segment required the application of three effects from the plugins pack:

  • Jitter automatically causes stuttering and out-of-frame-order playback. You could do that manually, of course, but slapping on a plugin makes it a lot easier.
  • Film damage adds all the dirt and gunge to the frame, plus random defocusing and frame jumps. I went for quite an extreme usage – more than you’d use if you were using it for a whole shot.
  • Shake adds artificial movement, giving the shot a floaty feel as if shot handheld. Notably, I applied shake after the jitter effect, so that the floaty virtual camerawork plays out in order even as the underlying frames are played out-of-order.

Finally, the extended version has a completely new grade. The original grade was done in a hurry and suffers from ridiculous over-sharpening – entirely my fault – which didn’t do Josh’s camerawork justice by any means. The extended cut gave me an opportunity to go back in and regrade, with more successful results.

That was about it for The Interview. The final step was to have the credits play in reverse direction, descending down into the depths and turning slightly red as they went.

We hope you enjoyed this glimpse behind-the-scenes!


The Interview – extended cut now out!

We’re excited to present the extended cut of The Interview, originally created for the Locke 85 Second Challenge and now expanded to tell more of the story.

A behind-the-scenes video will follow soon going into more detail about the two versions of the film and the different challenges we encountered.

Find out more about the project here.


Damien’s Interview – competition cut

A new short film from IAT is now online! Check it out above and over on the main channel.

This is the competition cut, designed to fit into the 85 second running time restriction as set for the LOCKE challenge.

We’re also now working on an extended cut which we’ll put up on the channel soon, along with some behind-the-scenes insight. The extended cut will also deliver a tweaked grade, which unfortunately suffered somewhat at the hands of YouTube’s processing, resulting in it being overly crunchy and sharpened. We wanted a high contrast, bleached look…but not quite that much. Nevertheless, we decided it was best to upload the competition version as that’s the version we submitted – that way you can contrast it with the final cut when that arrives.

Let us know what you think!


IAT shooting a new short this weekend

This weekend we’re throwing together a very short short for the LOCKE 85-Second Challenge. We’ve found that time limited challenges often bring out the best in us, forcing proper creative thinking. This time round we don’t have the theme and genre restrictions of the Sci-Fi-London 48-hour Challenge but we do have an extremely tight running time in which to tell a contained story.

Yesterday some of IAT linked brains to test out a few different story concepts. From this highly successful pub meeting came a number of potential short film premises, though several of them we decided to park so that we could give them a proper treatment outside of this particular challenge.

Meanwhile, the selected subject we decided upon and the project’s chosen scribes Chris Burdett and Tom Butterworth set pen to paper today, delivering two connected but alternate takes on the subject. These are now being coalesced prior to tomorrow’s afternoon shoot. It’s a super-quick turnaround for a super short short, which seems appropriate. The plan is then to close the edit on Monday before passing it off for finishing.

The crew shakes down something like this:

Directors: Christopher Puttock & Nigel Clegg

Writers: Chris Burdett & Tom Butterworth

Actor: Tom Butterworth

Editor: Christopher Puttock

Director of photography: Joshua Davies

Grading/finishing: Simon Jones

Once again we’re very pleased to welcome regular IAT collaborators Josh and Tom to the fold and look forward to unleashing their particular talents on the project.

We’ll see you on the other side.


The Ravenskil Chronicles – auditioning now!

Our next big audio production is The Ravenskil Chronicles, a Cthulhu-inspired horror/detective series set in the 1920s. The scripts call for a cast of thousands (well, dozens) and we’re asking  for your help yet again. Only this time it doesn’t involve running up and down a beach in the rain, as with the Arms Race: Escalation shoot.

In fact, acting for an audio drama is an altogether rather cosy affair, involving sitting in a comfortable chair, thesping into a microphone while you’re fed with tea and biscuits.

We will be autioning for voice actors on Sunday 12th August from 4pm – 7pm and again on Sunday 19th August from 12pm –  3pm (or as long as required) and would like to invite anyone who is willing to give it a go to come and take part.

There are characters of all ages, genders, backgrounds and dodgy regional accents so should be something for everyone. Let us know if you’d like to come along and please feel free to spread the word to anyone else whom you think might be vaguely interested.

The sessons will be at our recording studio (well, Chris’ house) on Mill Hill Rd in Norwich. If you’re in Norwich and would like to give it a bash but cannot make either date then we may be able arrange to come to you at a convenient time – let us know.

If you’re not local all is not lost: we can arrange for you to audition by sending a recording over the internet.Recording of the actual series will be done in a fairly piecemeal fashion dependant on when and where actors are available so shouldn’t represent too much of a drain on people’s time.

Do let us know if you’re interested, either in the blog comments or by using the contact page.

Please note that unfortunately we will not be able to pay or cover expenses for this project.


Arms Race Escalation diary: building the props

Over on the Arms Race website you can find a new diary from director and art lead Nigel Clegg about the pre-production project to build an entire armoury of props for the web series. Click here to give it a read!


Arms Race Escalation: mechanical arm prop guide!

Here’s the latest update from the Arms Race Escalation team, with director and IAT art department head honcho Nigel Clegg showing you how to build your own steampunk mechanical arm on a budget.


Arms Race Escalation now in post

On Sunday we wrapped principal photography on Arms Race Escalation, bringing to a close the longest, most ambitious shoot we’ve ever attempted. Having now had a day of rest, we’re swinging into action on the web series’ post-production, which will take us through to the November online release. We could never have done this without our incredible cast and crew, some of whom you can see in the photo above.

For detailed production updates, keep an eye on the official Arms Race website.


Keep up-to-date on Arms Race Escalation

We’re currently right in the middle of the huge shoot for our upcoming web series, Arms Race Escalation. If you’d like to know more about this steampunk action adventure extravaganza, make sure you check out some of these resources:


Arms Race Escalation production begins!

At long last we have reached the shoot for Arms Race Escalation, the 6 episode mini series sequel to our 2010 short film. This Saturday principal photography begins on the Norfolk coast, before moving inland to various locations in the  countryside and Norwich itself. The shoot is a week long which makes it the biggest film project we’ve undertaken by quite some way. It’s an ambitious 6 episodes and we have a fantastic cast and crew all geared up to give it their all.

Meanwhile, here’s another glimpse at one of the new props coming up in the web series: